MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) --It's been three years in the making and now phase one of the Atwater-Merced Expressway is officially done.
Months and months of digging and dumping has finally paid off. Now that the first phase of the Highway 99 Atwater-Merced Expressway is open. Friday, Merced County and city officials, along with Caltrans, held an event to dedicate the long-awaited project.
"This opens up north Merced. This opens up the people commuting from Gustine," said Daron McDaniel, Supervisory, District 3.
The $66 million expressway received close to $47 million from a voter-approved transportation bond. But it came at an even bigger cost for some businesses, like the Atwater Veterinary Clinic that had to move so it could be built.
"It is bittersweet because every time I go around that and look at that ponding basin, I see the old clinic-- and we were they for a long time," said Dr. Carolyn Schiffelle.
Dr. Scieffelles new clinic is on the other side of town and has become a better location for some of her clients who now live nearby. She said, though it was stressful relocating, she looks forward to seeing how the freeway will do some good for the community.
"I'm anticipating growth, and I hope it's going to be good."
One of the new developments in the works is the Ferrari project. A shopping and medical plaza that will bring in a hotel, movie theater, and retail stores. Ultimately creating more than seven thousand jobs.
"It seems like, to the regular person, not a big deal-- but it's huge in so far as all the different aspects in the community here, and how we're all going to come together economically," said James Price, Atwater mayor.
The new expressway is also designed to help drivers get on and off the ramp safely. And once more funding is provided and the other phases of the project are complete, drivers will have direct access from the freeway to UC Merced.